The Natural Church Development research looked at a range of churches and attempted to identify the key quality characteristics of growing churches. This research produced the following list:
- Empowering Leadership
- Gift-orientated ministry
- Passionate spirituality
- Functional structures
- Inspiring worship services
- Holistic small groups
- Need-orientated evangelism
- Loving relationships
Healthy churches, however, began with research which focussed on twenty five churches in Durham diocese which bucked a general trend into decline by 32%. These churches seemed to have the following marks:
- Energized by faith
- Outward-looking focus
- Seeks to find out what God wants
- Faces the cost of change and growth
- Operates as a community
- Makes room for all
- Does a few things and does them well
Both NCD and HC do not regard specific projects, programmes or worship styles as significant. The key to these churches' health is the way they operate rather than what they do.
To these lists I could add some thoughts based on the concept of sustainability. For instance, a church should have sufficient professional ministry that local ministry is enabled, but not so much that local initiative is unnecessary. It should be able to pay its' way - but not pay too much so that others become dependent in turn... and so on...
I've also been very interested in the concept of culture change as a learning circle...
I think an interesting project could be set up to help churches identify their specific "sustainability" or "change indicators" and develop a strategy to adopt a "healthy lifestyle".